5 Faves….Comic Book Influences – Jason Contini

So, I thought I’d get in on the “5 Faves…” game.  And, since this is a film about comic books and collectors, I figured I’d share with you all the five Comic Books series/stories that influenced me the most over the years.  Now, these aren’t necessarily the greatest comics ever, or the most sought after, they are strictly the ones that influenced me the most over the years.  So without any posturing, let’s get one with it!

HONORABLE MENTIONS

honorable mentions

THEhonorable mentions PROTECTORS; THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS; STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (6 ISSUE MINIE-SERIES); JLA BY GRANT MORRISON; and SPIDER-MAN: ROUND ROBIN THE SIDEKICK’S REVENGE

I could take a whole article just talking about these five comics alone and their influence on me.  But I won’t take that kind of time.  I just felt that they deserved at least a mention.

#5 – THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN

supermandeath

1993 was a big year for me!  I graduated grade school (I went to a Catholic School for grades 1-8).  I started high school.  I did my first play for an audience of more that 200 people (it was a 12,000 seat house, in fact).  Jurassic Park became the first movie that I can remember seeing in the theatre again, and again, and again.  The Nightmare Before Christmas introduced me to a whole new world of feature film animation.  And that was also the year that a Superman died!

I can remember when the news broke that DC Comics was going to kill off the most popular and oldest superhero of all time.  It was on all the news stations.  It was in every paper.  And every time I walked into a comic book shop I saw that big poster with the Superman symbol bleeding.  I couldn’t wait to see what could kill the Man Of Steel.  The day the book came out, I went to the local comic shop (the same shop I would later work at) and got my copy.  The book came in that mysterious, sealed black bag.  And on the front…that bleeding Superman symbol.  I tore into it as soon as I got home!  And by the last page, it had happened.  Superman was dead.  I immediately got sucked into the following storyline that featured his funeral and then his subsequent return in the Reign of the Supermen storyline.  It was the first time I “bought into” the hype of a comic book.  And while it may have been just a gimmick, it remains to this day one of my all time favorite storylines in comics.  And when I sit down to read those comics, I can’t help but here that iconic John Williams music.  This storyline was “my” Superman!

#4 – MARVEL 2099

2099 comics

In the early 90’s, during the glutinous saturation of the comic book market, Marvel tried something new.  They took old familiar characters and comic books and set them in the future.  In the year 2099 to be exact.  I recall seeing the first two issues they released with my brother Nathan: Spider-Man 2099 and Ravage 2099.   We were in awe of those new costumes, and that “futuristic” logo style.  And of course, of the shiny metallic borders that all the first issue covers had.  We had to have them.

In the following years, I started to collect all the 2099 titles.  X-men 2099, Hulk 2099, Punisher 2099, Doom 2099, Fantastic Four 2099, 2099 Unlimited….well, you get the picture.  I had nearly every single 2099 comic that had been put out.  I devoured it.  It was an entirely separate universe of characters, that all sort of looked like actual Marvel characters, but I didn’t have to know 30-plus years of history.  This universe was for my generation of comic readers.  This universe was for me.

In the years since, I lost my entire 2099 collection in a fire that our family persevered through over ten years ago.  I missed those books.  They were a big part of my childhood.  And so now, as an adult, I have begun the hunt all over again.  I have started trying to find all those old books and rebuild my 2099 world.

#3 – IMPACT! COMICS (THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS)

impact comics

My parents took my brothers and I on a vacation to Branson, MO back in the summer of 1991.  I remember stopping into a large comic shop in the area and looking at this old wire turnstile rack in the middle of the store.  And there they were.  In the top two slots.  Not one, but TWO brand new superhero comics!  Number 1’s!  Characters I had never heard of!  THE LEGEND OF THE SHIELD and THE COMET!  I immediately started pouring over the covers.  And then I noticed the big blurb on the front cover that read THE IMPACT! ERA BEGINS HERE!  I had to have them!

In the months that followed I got all the other books that the Impact! Comics line offered: The Fly, The Jaguar, The Black Hood, The Web, and The Mighty Crusaders.  I then learned that these were NOT new characters.  These characters had been around for a LONG time.  I learned that they were originally put out by Archie Comics, way before they ever created that ole’ red headed kid.  I learned of their influence on the comics industry in general.  I discovered that their patriotic hero, The Shield, was actually the first patriotic comic book hero, NOT Captain America.  I learned that, in the late thirties/early forties, when the character of The Comet was “killed off” that was the first time that a superhero “died” in comics.  I read about the influence The Fly had on Spider-Man, the first villain-turned-hero character The Hangman, and the first real anti-superhero The Black Hood!

I have since gone back and started collecting ALL the previous incarnations of these characters from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.  These will forever be my all time favorite superheroes and they are the one comic book universe that I would LOVE to contribute to even if it was just a pin-up!  But no matter what, it was the Impact! Comics run that got me hooked and it’s the Impact! Comics run that will forever be my favorite.

#2 – X-MEN: THE AGE OF APOCALYPSE

apocalypse

When I was in high school, I remember picking up a new issue of Wizard Magazine, the information mag about comics.  There was an article about the X-Men, which I was never really a collector of.  I dabbled here and there.  Like everyone else I bought X-Men #1 and X-Force #1 but I never really collected it.  So, when I noticed this article I didn’t think much of it.  But I actually read the article I was floored.  “You’re going to KILL Professor X and change the X-Men’s history and pretend as if they never existed!?  You can’t do THAT!”

Marvel released an ashcan preview comic not long after that that set up their new major event.  In it the book talked about how Professor Xavier never formed the X-Men.  And as a result, the X-Men never stopped Magneto, Juggernaut, Mister Sinister, The Brood, The Dark Phoenix and of course…Apocalypse.  It went to say that if there was never an Uncanny -Men, there was never an X-Force.  X-Factor never formed.  Generation X never existed.  Wolverine never came to be.  But instead there were The Astonishing X-Men, Gambit and The Externals, Factor-X, Generation Next and Weapon X!  The entire line of X-Men comics was being redesigned and restarted and being called X-MEN: THE AGE OF APOCALYPSE!  That got me!  That one 8 page preview hooked me!  I had to have them all!  I read the entire series!  But it didn’t stop there.  When the X-Men were able to reset everything back to the way it was, I had to know what happened next?  How do these character just “go on” after what they had just been through.  For the first time ever, I was collecting X-Men on a monthly basis!  I’ve read X-Men off and on over the years since, but it was The Age Of Apocalypse that got me hooked on them.  And it will always by me second favorite comic book storyline of all time!

#1 – CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS

crisis

Spectacular!  That is the word that used on the cover of issue 1 of the first real major company wide crossover event in comics.  Sure there had been a few other, The Kree/Skrull War in Avengers and Marvel’s Secret Wars had already started, but nothing like Crisis had ever been done in that way up until that time!  I remember my Dad was getting the series and after he would read the latest issue, I got to sit down and read it.  I was too young to fully understand everything that was going on.  I knew there was something about multiple worlds and different versions of the Justice League and there was some kind of time travel involved and a TON of superheroes and a bad guy called The Anti Monitor that was trying to destroy all of it.  And that was about all I really cared about.  A lot of superheroes fighting a world ending bad guy.

And when I say “a lot of superheroes” I mean A LOT!  Every DC Comics character that had been created up till that time appeared in this comic.  It was twelve issues long and had some of the biggest battles and largest gatherings of costumes I had ever seen in a comic book before.  And as if THAT weren’t enough, then issue #7 came out.

Crisis #7 is one of the most famous comic book covers of all time.  But in 1985, we were all just shocked.  The cover shows Superman holding the dead body of Supergirl.  “They’re not really gonna kill off Supergirl, are they!?”  And sure enough, they did.  Supergirl died in issue #7 fighting The Anti Monitor himself and buys her friends some time.  I couldn’t believe it.  But Crisis didn’t stop there!  The very next issue, my young mind couldn’t even fathom what was going on!  They did it again!  They killed another superhero!  Running faster than he had ever run before, The Flash followed Supergirl.  The Flash died destroying The Anti Monitor’s Anti Matter Cannon.  The Flash, the first DC hero of The Silver Age, was dead.  And Crisis went on like that.

It was twelve issues of the biggest moments in comics at that time.  And it forever impacted me.  A massive storyline that laid everything on the line for its characters, and eventually rewrote not just its own universe, but the way comic books would be handled in the years to come.  It’s because of this book that there are now major events like this in comics now every year.  But Crisis was the first.  And it’s my favorite.  Favorite comic book ever.  I read it at least once a year.  And it is probably the biggest influence on my own comic book work.

Well, after geeking out that hardcore, I think I need to go sit down and crack open Crisis On Infinite Earths #1.

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